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Turns out, having a baby takes a lot of time!  Add in a smart and energetic toddler/preschooler, and things like writing blog posts take a back-seat role for a while :)

I’m popping in today to share part one of a few wrap-up posts about the garden this past summer.  I took photos throughout the summer, but it proved to be too hard for me to get them edited and posted on the blog in anything close to real-time.  So I’ll share some now, with some things I learned and want to remember as I plan my future gardens.

The three photos below show what my garden plot looked like in mid-July.  On this particular day, I harvested one zucchini– the very first piece of produce from this year’s garden!

garden today

cucumber, pepper, zucchini

tomatoes

Let’s talk about the zucchini first, shall we?

I had two varieties in my garden, a Lake Valley seed company variety and a Burpee seed company variety.  I got a grand total of one small zucchini (a strangely-shaped 1/2 pound one) from the Burpee plant, which surprised me.  The Lake Valley plant grew to a monstrous size and gave us 10 fruits!  Yum.  We grilled some, we made fritters, and of course we made zucchini bread!  The plant got quite unwieldy by the end of the summer, and started breaking when we harvested.  However, this is the first summer where my zucchini harvest even approached the “feed your neighborhood” quantity touted on the packet!

Cucumber

The cucumbers were underwhelming this summer.  After last year’s amazing yield, I was super-excited for cucumbers to come out my ears!  But they seemed to get started late, and the vines never got very full.  In fact, I got half the number of fruits off of approximately twice the garden “real-estate.”

Carmen pepper

our first carmen pepper

Also in the “disappointment” category are the peppers.  I didn’t expect much from my from-seed-seedlings, which was good: they died almost immediately (or got trampled??).  But I had high hopes for the store-bought plant.  We ended up getting two red peppers from it.

The tomatoes, on the other hand, were plentiful!

Indigo Rose tomato

Indigo Rose tomato

The Indigo Rose tomatoes (purchased plants) were beautiful to look at.  The flavor wasn’t anything spectacular, though, so I don’t think we will get them again.

Bonnie Grape tomato

We absolutely loved the Bonnie Grape (purchased plants) tomatoes.  They yielded like crazy, and we could hardly keep up with them.  The flavor was fantastic and they were perfect for salads.  Usually I am loathe to cook with delicious home-grown tomatoes like this, but we had so many that I actually tried them in a soup recipe that called for cherry-type tomatoes!

We got only a few tomatoes from the plants I started from seed (Best Boy and Fourth of July varieties).  In comparing them to the other varieties, though, we did decide that we liked the fleshiness of the Best Boy fruits, especially for things like sandwiches.  The flavor of the Fourth of July tomatoes was much better than the flavor of the Indigo Rose fruits.

Well, you can tell which half of the herb box is under the overhang...  whoops.

My herbs were a bust.  I don’t think I even used any from this box!!  How disappointing.  I was good about watering them until the baby was born, and after that, they were dependent on the rain.  As you can see from the photo above, part of the box is shielded by the second floor overhang of our house.  Bummer.  They all dried out and died really quickly.  I’m glad they were freebie seeds or I would be even more sad than I already am.

gorgeous harvest from our garden today

quite a harvest awaited us in the garden when we got home from our trip!

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We got some really beautiful harvests this summer.  The colors were gorgeous, and even though I was picky about the tomatoes’ flavor, I really did enjoy the luxury of home-grown produce.  I am most thankful to Husband, though, because he ended up doing almost all of the work for the garden this summer.  In the first part of the summer, I was so pregnant that I couldn’t even get over the fence easily, and in the second part of the summer, I discovered that if I went outside, especially into the garden, I got eaten alive by mosquitoes.  I got bitten in at least 19 places to collect the tomatoes shown in the photo with the kitchen scale!  Husband seems to be mosquito-resistant, so he graciously harvested for me.

I’m continuing our challenge from 2013 to make at least one new recipe from our two newer cookbooks each month.  There’s a category on the blog for these posts called “recipe review 2014.”

~ ~ ~

Recipe:  Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001-2013, (page 240)

 

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  • when did we make this? Sunday, August 24, for supper.
  • did we change anything?  Not really.  We used tomatoes from our garden, and a combination of campanelle and pipette pasta.  Interestingly, the Indigo Rose tomatoes dyed the pasta purple in places!  Fun!
  • what did we like?  This was a totally delicious way to show off the flavor of garden tomatoes!
  • what didn’t we like?  Nothing, really.  
  • will we make it again (any changes in the future)?  Yes!  And I don’t think any changes are necessary.

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Right now I’m in that awkward in-between phase in which my “regular” clothes don’t fit again yet, but my maternity clothes are too big and loose.  Starting soon, I’m going to need to look decently presentable at least two days per week, and so I’m trying to figure out some clothing to wear without having to buy too many pieces (especially pants) for my (hopefully) temporarily larger size.  In addition, if at all possible, I’d like to have tops that are suitable for easily nursing my baby.  It’s a tall order!

I realized that I have leggings that are pretty comfortable to wear– especially if I’m sitting on the floor (and I am on the floor a lot, playing with my 2.5-year-old and baby!).  I’d love to buy more tops that are long enough to cover me properly, but I don’t have very much time to do clothes shopping these days!  As I brainstormed ideas, I started thinking about what I might already have on hand in my own closet.

Soon after I had my baby, I was in my brother’s wedding, and I wanted to get a dress that I could nurse in to wear to the rehearsal and dinner.  I found a cross-front dress at Old Navy that was about $30.  I was kind of desperate and it was the best I’d found so far.  I figured I could return it if I found something better.  When I got to checkout, the salesgirl told me that it was an online item that had been returned to the store. If I agreed to take a no-return policy on the dress, I would get 50% off. I guess I thought it was worth it for $15.  I can’t think what made me think that this dress looked good on me when I tried it on in the store: it has exactly the features that I know are bad for my body shape– especially a waistband (elastic, no less!) right at the natural waist.  I wore the dress once and felt awkward in it and then every other time I put it on in hopes that it would look better, I regretted buying it.

2014_08_23_refashion_beforecollage

The worst part of the dress is that elastic waistband. It hit me at a very bad place unless I scootched it up more empire style, and then the bodice sagged in a funny way. I also really disliked the high/low hemline.  (Seriously, I can’t believe I bought this dress!!!)  I decided to chop the dress to tunic length and adjust the waistline with some sort of a wide belt or sash, most likely made from the fabric I cut off.  In bits of spare moments, I started refashioning the dress into a tunic.

The first thing I did was re-hem the dress.  (Hooray for a cover-stitching serger!) It already looks worlds better, even without a belt!

Crummy pic, but I got it hemmed. I really need to figure out a belt.

I sent the photo above to my mom (who taught me how to sew!  Thank you, mom!) and we had a really good conversation about how I might adjust it.  She suggested taking up the shoulder seams to alleviate the awkward sagging in the bodice (which I ended up not having to do), and she also suggested some sort of a shirred belt.  The shirring idea made my brain fizz with hope!

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During the next bits of stolen time, I cut an even 7″ wide strip out of the fabric I’d chopped off of the bottom of the dress.   After a bit of experimenting and discarding some bad ideas, I ended up hemming the long edges of the strip (cover stitch again!) and then stitching it into a belt to fit my waist.  I gathered the side seams to shirr it to a 4″ width, and reinforced them by stitching the gathers to some bias tape on the wrong side.  The belt covers the elastic at the tunic waist and sits high enough to effectively give the tunic an empire waistline, which is much more flattering to my body shape.  Maybe someday I’ll figure out the best way to remove the elastic altogether (it would be more comfortable if it weren’t there), but for now, I am pleased with how this refashion turned out.

finished dress-to-tunic refashion project

finished dress-to-tunic refashion project

2014_09_01_tunicaftercollage1

 

I’m so thankful for the sewing skills to turn what was a bummer of a dress into a useful, comfortable, and much more flattering tunic!

I’m continuing our challenge from 2013 to make at least one new recipe from our two newer cookbooks each month.  There’s a category on the blog for these posts called “recipe review 2014.”

~ ~ ~

Recipe:  Greek-Style Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001-2013, (pages 207-208)

 

2014_08_22_ATKGreekshrimp02-Edit

2014_08_22_ATKGreekshrimp03-Edit

  • when did we make this? Friday, August 22, for supper.
  • did we change anything?  The recipe called for a combination of ouzo and dry white wine, but the liquor store Husband went to didn’t have ouzo, so the man at the shop recommended Sambuco, which is an anise flavored, dry wine.
  • what did we like?  I liked the sweetness of the sauce (especially from the red bell pepper): it complimented the shrimp really well.
  • what didn’t we like?  After a few bites, the flavor of the dill was really overwhelming to me.  
  • will we make it again (any changes in the future)?  Not sure.  It was certainly an interesting and pretty tasty shrimp dish.  If we make this recipe again, I will definitely reduce the amount of fresh dill.  I’d also like to figure out a good side starch to serve with it.  We had bread with it when we first ate the dish, and when I had it left over the next day, I had it with couscous, which I liked a bit better.  I’m not sure what would be the best side dish, though.

For the other showers that I’ve helped to throw, I have loved providing the guest of honor with coordinating handmade thank you note cards.  So of course, it was no exception for the bridal shower for my friend!

I designed little “Merci” tags (partly in PSE7 and partly in the Silhouette Studio software to utilize the print-and-cut feature) that coordinate with all the other “paper goods” for the shower, and I attached the tags to the front of a cream-colored card atop a knotted ribbon and half a paper doily (I love the look of white-on-cream.  It looks even better in person!).

"Merci" cards for vintage-rustic-French bridal shower gift

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The design is quite simple, but that’s because I made three dozen cards!!

three dozen "Merci" cards for vintage-rustic-French bridal shower gift

My dear friend, whom I have known since we were both 2 years old (does that make her my “oldest” friend?  I don’t think that sounds very flattering ;-)) is getting married this fall!  I am honored to be one of her bridesmaids, and together with her other bridesmaids, we threw her a shower.  The other ladies did a wonderful job with the shower plans, and part of my contribution was to design the invitation and some tags and cards.  These were some of my very last projects that I completed before my baby was born!

(I LOVE this kind of digital design!!)

After we decided that the shower would have a rustic and vintage French flair, I searched on Pinterest to get an idea of what that might look like.  Here’s the 4×6 version of the invitation that I designed (I purposely have mis-dated it for blog purposes):

showerinvite_blogversion-Edit

Based on this design, I made thank-you flags for the cupcake favors…

2014_06_cupcakeflags-Edit

 

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…as well as notecards upon which guests wrote notes of encouragement and advice to the bride and groom.  These cards will be interspersed in an album among photos from the shower.

notecard_20140610_blogversion

 

I made a coordinating “instructions” card to be placed near the cards:

notecardinstructions_blogversion

Digital supplies:
Erica Coombs “Floraux” (papers 1 and 10)
CelesteKnight “Watercolor Overlays” (#2)
Chelle’s Creations “Precious” (Lace)
Jen Allyson “Vintage Findings Halloween” (Apothecary Labels)
Eiffel_Tower_Sketch_by_potterfisk0177.jpg from DeviantArt, converted into a digital brush

Fonts: Sail, Bodoni MT, Graphis, Bergamot Ornaments

I had the pleasure to be in my brother’s wedding, and when my dad asked me to help him figure out a nice way to invite guests to the rehearsal dinner, of course I had to go all-out and make a digital invitation.  Most of the invitations were emailed, but I printed one on matte photo paper– and boy, did it look nice (if I do say so myself)!  Most of the time, I don’t get to see these things printed.

RehearsalDinnerInvite_forblog

Once the invitation was made, it wasn’t hard to take it one step further and make a menu card for guests’ reference at the dinner.  The restaurant serves a huge meal family-style, and my dad wanted people to be aware of the selection of food that was coming their way!  I printed these on cardstock.

 

 

 

Supplies:
Digital kit: Tuesday Morning Extras, by One Little Bird
Fonts: Amatic, Meddon, Windsong

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